Student Government plans to contact mayor over city’s talk of student fee

By Liz Navratil and Estelle Tran

The mayor wants to charge college students an extra $100 per year, which came as a surprise to… The mayor wants to charge college students an extra $100 per year, which came as a surprise to some member’s of Student Government Board.

They disagreed over Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s proposal, which is meant to help the city pay its former employees’ pensions.

“It’s not an irrational movement. If we take benefit from the city, we should find a way to give back,” SGB President Kevin Morrison said.

But Nick Trainer, the governmental relations committee chair, planned last night to contact the mayor’s office, which they had not previously done regarding this issue.

“We’re cash-strapped college students. We can’t be shelling out extra money,” he said.

Trainer said he wasn’t expecting Ravenstahl’s proposal when he read about it in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Monday.

Articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette say Ravenstahl began hinting in June that he’d like to charge college students to help pad the city’s pension fund. His proposal, part of his suggested 2010 budget, will have to be approved by city council before it can go into effect.

One of SGB’s main responsibilities is to represent the needs of students to local, state and federal organizations, its constitution says.

“I think it’s fair to say that we definitely need to have a better contact with the mayor’s office,” Trainer said.

He added that he’s tried unsuccessfully in the past to establish one contact person within the mayor’s office and that he wanted to call them again today.

Trainer said he has contacts in city council and various senators’ offices, but he doesn’t have one person in particular he works with at the mayor’s office. Instead, he calls the general number.

Student government, Trainer said, rarely knows about political proposals before they are introduced.

To keep up with developing proposals, he said, “We would need a full-time staff.”

Trainer often relies on news published on local political blogs.

Sometimes, he said, the governmental relations committee works with Pitt’s Governmental Relations Office to launch letter-writing or phone-calling campaigns, among other initiatives. But the two groups don’t have a standing meeting.

Instead, they tend to communicate with each other only when issues that affect students arise.

As a result, Trainer said, the governmental relations committee often does its work after proposals have been introduced but before they’ve been voted upon.

SGB Notes:

The Birding and Ornithology Club withdrew its request for binoculars that cost about $240 each in favor of submitting a new request for cheaper binoculars.

The board approved two Allocations Committee recommendations for the Lady Panthers Soccer Club to attend tournaments. The club received its first request of $2,128.50 in full. The board also granted the committee’s recommendation for $2,644.80, denying the club one cent because of rounding.

The board rejected the Outdoors Club’s request for $1,740 for three officers to attend a conference. The Allocations Committee recommended that the board deny the request. Board member Lance Bonner moved to grant the club $500 for two registrations, and the board approved the new amount.